The White House is the center of state affairs for the United States. It is also the main residence for the President and the First Lady. While the first floor is for the White House administration, the second floor is considered the official home of the President of the United States. What connects these two sections of the White House is the Grand Staircase.
While the first White House architect James Hoban had initially planned for one, the Grand Staircase did not exist when the White House was first constructed in the 1790s. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the second White House architect, placed a double run at the West End of the Cross Hall, but it wasn’t until 1902 that the Grand Staircase as we know it was constructed. At that time, President Theodore Roosevelt hired architect Charles Follen McKim to redesign the White House. McKim then removed the Latrobe staircase and placed a new Grand Staircase at the eastern end of the Cross Hall.
Truman Era Reconstruction
The structural changes made by McKim took its toll on the then-150-year-old building. Cracks were starting to form, and the ceiling began to sag. In 1948, under President Harry Truman, the White House and the Grand Staircase was reconstructed. The new version of the Grand Staircase was framed by a rectilinear archway and featured cream and taupe marble. The interior walls also displayed the seals of each of the original 13 states in addition to a plaster arch featuring an American eagle with 13 radiating arrows.
The Grand Staircase is used to connect the State Floor (or first floor) of the White House and the second floor where the President and First Lady reside. However, it is also used for ceremonial purposes, mainly when the President is hosting a foreign dignitary and they descend the steps to the Presidential Entrance March.